The Kurds are the largest people group who do not have their own homeland. Instead, they are spread across the towering mountains and barren plains of Turkey,Iran, and Iraq. This oil-rich area, known as "Kurdistan," was politically divided into three nations after World War II. The Dimili Kurds inhabit the northern edge of Kurdistan in eastern Turkey.The Dimili Kurds differ from other Kurds in primarily two ways: language and religion. Although they speak the Kurdish language, the Dimilis speak their own distinct dialect. Similarly, while most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, the majority of the Dimili Kurds are followers of the "Alevi Sect" of Islam. Other Kurdish peoples see the Dimilis as being heretics and, as a result, have isolated them from other Kurdish tribes.
Although most of the Kurds live in Turkey, the Turkish government refuses to recognize them as a separate people. They simply refer to them as the "mountain Turks." Even their basic needs, such as education and land development, are neglected by the government. It is no wonder, then, that the Kurds are a people struggling to maintain their own identity.
What are their lives like?
The Dimili Kurds live either grouped together in towns and villages, or as nomadic herdsmen. Their society is dominated by males, but women typically oversee the households.
Traditional clothing for the men includes baggy trousers, plain shirts, jackets wrapped with brightly colored sashes, and colorful turbans. A dagger is worn and thrust into the folds of the sash. The women also wear brightly colored clothing; but, contrary to most other Muslim women, do not cover their faces with veils.
In northeastern Kurdistan, where the Dimili Kurds live, there are three large river systems: the Arax, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. The valleys surrounding these rivers are rich and fertile--perfect for raising sheep, goats, and cattle. Much of Turkey's meat, grain, and vegetables is also produced there.
Since the government doesn't recognize the Kurds as a distinct people group, they do not invest money or resources into the Kurdish territories. This means, unfortunately, that most of their land has remained undeveloped. The lack of government funds has also hindered the Kurds' educational progress. Most Kurdish villages do not even have a primary school.
The beautiful Caucasus mountain region where the Kurds reside is covered with snow about half of the year.
What are their beliefs?
The earliest known religious practices among the Kurds included a Persian form of worship known as "Zoroastrianism." This teaching says that there is indeed an afterlife, and it acknowledges the continuous struggle between good and evil. At the end of the seventh century, however, Arabians conquered this territory, and soon Muslim teachings replaced Zoroastrianism.
What are their needs?
Events surrounding the Kurds have recently turned the eyes of the world toward Kurdistan. Kurdish hopes for independence, or at least some sort of autonomy, ran high. This has not yet happened, unfortunately, even after the Gulf war; they are still in desperate need. Due to the Turkish government's antagonistic position toward them, the Dimili Kurds do not benefit from government funding or resources. In fact, the Turkish government uses many measures to suppress the identity of the Kurds. For example, the Kurdish language has been banned from use in schools and publications. Illiteracy and unemployment are major problems. Many villages have no water, electricity or telephones, and medical services are inadequate.
Although the Islamic religion is extremely difficult to penetrate, some Turkish Kurds are not devout Muslims and hold Christ in high regard. Unfortunately, however, there are very few believers among the Kurds and there is no Christian outreach being done in their language.
In the literal sense, this group is very difficult to reach simply because hundreds of their villages are inaccessible by road; these may only be reached via small goat trails.